Film Room: Stars top Liberty at home, career nights for McBride and Alexander

SAN ANTONIO, TX - AUGUST 1: Kayla McBride /

Are the San Antonio Stars ready to play spoiler down the stretch of this WNBA regular season? Tuesday night was a good start as they knocked off the New York Liberty in San Antonio 93-81. The Stars captured their fourth win of the season and caught the Liberty at a good time. New York wraps up a five game road trip Friday in Los Angeles.

So, what finally clicked for the 4-21 Stars? Kayla McBride absolutely went off for 31 points. McBride got to the line eight times and shot 5-11 from deep. Perhaps this triple was a good indicator of where her night was headed:

Head Coach Vickie Johnson also rolled with the McBride / Kelsey Plum / Moriah Jefferson trio on the perimeter for about 15 minutes in total on Tuesday, including the final 9+ minutes of the game.

A sequence like this one in transition, with all three players getting a touch, gives us a taste of how tough they can be to guard:

Kayla Alexander also got her first start of the season in the middle in place of Erika de Souza. Alexander also had a career night: 19 points (9-13 shooting), 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks in 30+ minutes.

Alexander’s quick release and confidence from the midrange continues to serve as a huge asset and bail out option late in the clock:

Even on a night McBride isn’t scoring 30+ points, she regularly draws two defenders. Here, Alexander slips into the lane for a score off glass out of a baseline out-of-bounds set:

Alexander stretched the jumper out to about 17 feet in the second half, hitting from the elbow after McBride drew two defenders toward the baseline:

Alexander’s number even got called in crunch time to catch a cross screen from McBride, come across the lane, and toss in a right hook:

That action may look familiar. Two players on the Lynx run the same action pretty well.

Kelsey Plum drew the start at PG and played 30 minutes. Here’s one of the best Horns pick and rolls the Stars have run all year, which ended with a Plum three on a kick out:

Plum started a little higher on the floor and was able to attack at a better angle to force an opposing big to step out to her. That switch led to Dearica Hamby carving out deep position with a guard on her back. Help came to Hamby and Plum knocked down the open look.

Plum hit her second three of the night by filling up on the weak side of a Moriah Jefferson pick and roll. The biggest takeaway from this possession, though, may be the early touch for McBride prior to the action that led directly to the score:

Plum’s defender stepped in for just a beat to tag the roller. That was all the time Plum needed to fire away.

Not to be lost in the conversation with lineup change, it is important to note that Hamby is a very important part of the Stars’ rotation. She plays regular minutes with both Isabelle Harrison and Alexander, making it easy for Johnson to find minutes for her.

Hamby hit a pick and pop three Tuesday, her second triple of the season. She’d also make it incredibly easy for Johnson to play her more if she knocks more of those down. That shot sparked a big five point sequence for Hamby:

She also fed McBride for one of her five threes from the post off a great split action:

The Liberty did have a balanced scoring attack Tuesday night, with four players pouring in 13 or more, including Shavonte Zellous. She got two layups off identical cuts from the weak side:

Great read both times by Charles and Zellous. Zellous attacked the crease between weak side defenders the second the higher defender stepped toward the top of the key, and Charles delivered the ball on time for four easy points.

Bria Hartley finished with a strong 17 point / 5 assist line in 28 minutes. She dribbles the ball to the wing herself often and is very good at using a ball screen from there to get into the lane:

Hartley’s dribble entries save time, and she used it there to do the one thing the defense absolutely doesn’t want: Drive to the middle.

Hartley also screened for Tina Charles at the wing to create an open triple for herself:

The saying is old as dirt: Setting a screen is the best way to get open. Both defenders will almost always be forced to lean toward Charles. Hartley shows there how a player can take advantage of that.

All-Star Sugar Rodgers had an efficient 16 point performance in just 22 points off the bench. Watch her can three threes in three different ways:

Rodgers caught a flare screen in that first clip, read her defender dipping under a screen in the second clip, and caught a skip pass from Charles in the last one.

Rodgers has a lot of gravity that the Liberty can leverage to use her as a playmaker, too:

Chasing Rodgers around screens as a solo act is just too tough. Getting her the ball on the run gives her a chance to find teammates slipping to the rim.

It’s just one game for the Liberty. They’ve got one more game left on their current road trip before heading home. What are your thoughts on their new lineup? On the flip side, how do you like the Stars’ chances to play spoiler and give fans big reasons to be optimistic for 2018?

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